At February Fashion Week, young Israeli-born designer Yigal Azrouël triumphed: He showed on a day with rain so nasty it was practically biblical, but his collection was so must-see that nary a buyer, editor, or fashionista could keep from trekking to West Chelsea for the event. And Azrouël's collection was more than worth it, with impeccable draping and textured fabrics that appealed to a more sophisticated customer. But always versatile, he's also collaborated with K-Swiss on new lines of men's and women's sportswear. Since clearly the man knows his stuff, we had to pick his brain for a bit.
What inspired your recent collection?
For fall '08, it was all about the process of design and working with new fabrics; it wasn't about a painting or artist. I was working with really rich textures and embroidery that brought tonality to a moody palette. For my menswear, it's always about what I want to wear; it's very personal.
Has the response been different from past ones? We've heard nothing but raves about it.
The editors and buyers have always been so kind, but I think the difference could be that I'm starting to reach a wider audience. More people are mispronouncing my name.
Fall '08 had a different feel than your other collections — more grown up, more high fashion. Where did that come from?
My collections evolve every season, naturally, because I'm still a young designer and am learning and growing with each season. I also drape more than I sketch, so it's really about the physical act of working with fabric and seeing where it takes you.
Your last show was on the first day of Fashion Week — the weather was absolutely dreadful. How concerned were you that it would affect the turnout since you weren't at the tents? And speaking of, why weren't you at the tents?
I like to choose spaces that are unique and have their own energy. We showed at Eyebeam in Chelsea for fall, which is a really beautiful, raw space and was the perfect backdrop. I like to create a complete environment with the right setting and music that create a mood. I wasn't worried [about the weather] at all — we had a great turnout, and it was a lot of fun.
How did your collaboration with K-Swiss come about?
I wanted to design a cool men's sneaker for my spring '08 show, and I thought K-Swiss would be the perfect partner. It has taken off in a great direction. I've been wearing K-Swiss since I was a kid, and I feel like my sensibility — especially with menswear — is about bringing high design to classic silhouettes and sportswear. I want to create a fresh perspective for them.
How's the partnership going? Do you enjoy working with them?
They're wonderful to work with! I also started designing a women's collection for them. Both men's and women's Yigal Azrouël for K-Swiss collections are going to be sold in my boutique and other boutiques starting this summer.
What else are you working on aside from the K-Swiss project?
I am opening a store out East very soon, so that's a huge project right now. I am also building a house in Playa Negra, Costa Rica, with Dror Benshetrit. He's an incredible product designer and we are both surfers, so it was time to build a house there.
What was the first designer item you bought?
A Comme des Garçons T-shirt, which I still wear. It has aged really nicely and has great texture.
What trends do you love for spring?
I like neutrals worn with very bright colors and a more body-conscious silhouette, like defined waists.
What trends do you wish would go away?
The baby doll! That should be for girls only, not women. In menswear, I don't necessarily dislike the skinny pant, but I would never wear it or put it in my collections. I like a relaxed fit.
What fashion objects are you lusting after right now?
I found this beautiful green vintage Rolex from the sixties with a curved face. It was too much, so I didn't get it but regretted my decision and went back. Of course, someone else had bought it.
Where do you shop?
I like flea markets and NY Vintage but also really like boutiques like Atelier and IF. BDDW has incredible furniture.
What staple item should every woman have in her closet?
I think my shrunken leather jackets are versatile. You should have one if you are a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of person, and you should have one to wear over your gown.
Which of your pieces are really popular right now?
My experimental jersey T-shirts fly off the shelves. I make them every season in a variety of styles and a new color palette. I work with a fabric mill in Italy that makes a really fine yarn, which is then washed in a type of milk so it's the softest jersey in the world. The more you wear it, the better it gets.
What can't you live without?